5 SNP MSPs who could replace Nicola Sturgeon if Ruth Davidson triumphs

The next Scottish election is still four years away, but if the SNP are kicked out of power in 2021 they will need a fierce opposition leader to take them back to power?

1. John Swinney

One possible, but unlikely option is John Swinney, who is currently Scotland’s Deputy First Minister and its Education Secretary. Swinney is an experienced Cabinet Minister with a high level of name recognition, however, he has already served as the party’s leader.

His time at the helm of the SNP was during its opposition years, and the party lost seats at the 2003 election under his leadership. For a party wanting to claw its way back from opposition after a long spell in government, a previous failed leader might not be the best option.

2. Derek MacKay

The current Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Constitution has been an MSP since 2011 and a government minister since later that year. He is widely seen as a rising star in the party, and used to lead the Renfrewshire Council in a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.

For a party looking for experience and a relatively fresh face, MacKay could be the answer.

3. Humza Yousaf

Yousaf is another SNP figure seen as a rising star in the party. He is a well-refined speaker with heaps of charisma and currently serves as the government’s Transport and the Islands Minister. In an opposition role, he could prove an effective challenger to a hypothetical First Minister Ruth Davidson.

4. Fiona Hyslop

Hyslop has been an MSP since the Scottish parliament’s inception in 1999, first as a regional MSP then as a constituency MSP. She has an abundance of government experience which could form the foundation of any future leadership campaign.

5. Michael Russell

Russell currently serves as Scotland’s “Brexit minister”, and was previously Alex Salmond’s Education Secretary. He has plenty of government experience which could help his chances in a hypothetical leadership contest, but his lack of newness could be a hindrance.


The next Scottish election is not until 2021, and while the SNP still have a strong chance of retaining their place in government, following which Nicola Sturgeon would almost certainly remain leader, Scotland could opt for change. After years of one-party-rule, slipping education figures, increasing centralisation, and a shift to the left by the SNP, Labour and the Scottish Greens, Scotland’s Tories will have their best shot to return to dominating Scotland since the 1950s.

If Ruth Davidson succeeds, the SNP will need a charismatic visionary to return them to power. The question is: can anyone fill Nicola Sturgeon’s shoes?